Sakset/Fra hofta

Steve Colls bok om bin Laden-klanen slippes idag: «The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century,». Der Spiegel har snakket med Coll, som tror Osama har noe i ermet til det amerikanske valget.

But at first Osama’s religious and revolutionary zeal by no means contradicted the policies of the Saudi royal family, especially when it came to issues like the call to «liberate» Jerusalem, and then, later on, the fight against the Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan, which he plunged into with enthusiasm.

SPIEGEL: Did the other Bin Ladens admire Osama, or did they just see him as an eccentric?

Coll: They thought the intensity and rigor with which he lived his faith were odd. For example, he forbade his young wife from drinking through a straw and his children from drinking from a bottle, because he felt that these things were un-Islamic. But by no means did they see him as a sectarian outsider. Just as it was once customary in families of the European nobility for a son to choose the priesthood, they considered it quite normal that one of their own would choose the call of religion.

Martin H. Simon
Steve Coll is considered one of the most important non- fiction writers in the US. The two- time Pulitzer Prize winner was the Southeast Asia correspondent and later co- publisher of the Washington Post. Today he writes for the New Yorker magazine. In July of last year, Coll, 49, became head of the New America Foundation, a non- partisan public policy institute in Washington, D.C. His new book, «The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century,» which involved years of research into Osama bin Laden and his family, hit the bookstores on Tuesday. In the US, it is published by Penguin Press, in Germany it appears this week as a SPIEGEL book with Deutscher Verlags- Anstalt.
SPIEGEL: It soon became more than that.

Coll: Yes. Osama became radicalized in 1979, with the attack of radical Islamists on the Great Mosque in Mecca, the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. His ego and his ambition grew when, in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, he distributed money, most of it donated by his family, to the Afghan insurgents and then joined the mujaheddin in their holy war.

SPIEGEL: How was the family able to maintain this split between Mecca and the West?

Coll: Salem was quite successful as the head of the family and as a businessman. He knew how important the donations were for the Afghan resistance movement. On the advice of his politically influential US friends, he also helped finance the CIA’s campaign against the Contras in Nicaragua. Most of all, however, Salem bin Laden lived his American dream, which included villas, cars and private planes. He liked to travel and he loved singing to an audience. He once sang Bavarian folk songs at the Oktoberfest in Munich, after paying $2,000 in cash to buy a spot in the overflowing beer tent. His love life was especially eccentric.

SPIEGEL: In what way?

Coll: He had five preferred girlfriends: an American, a Briton, a Frenchwoman, a Dane and a German. One day he had them all flown to London, introduced them to each other and announced that he wanted to marry each of them and give them each a villa. The only condition was that they would have to be available for him at all times — and have their respective national flags flying on their property and a car made in their respective country parked in front of the door. He dreamed of his own, private United Nations. The German, nicknamed «my Panzer,» left immediately, while most of the others played hard-to-get. Salem eventually married the British woman…

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